Voter fraud panel to weigh whether voters should be subject to same background check as gun owners
President Donald Trump’s so-called election integrity commission will meet for the second time on Tuesday in New Hampshire, where it will hear testimony from a number of witnesses who have advocated for restrictive voting laws.
Among those will be one witness who is expected to argue that voters should be subject to the same background check as prospective gun owners.
According to a slideshow presentation published on WhiteHouse.gov ahead of the meeting, John R. Lott Jr., founder of the Crime Prevention Research Center, which advocates for looser gun laws, will testify that running background checks on voters might satisfy all parties.
However, the presentation for Lott’s argument often reads more like a dig at Democrats’ call for rigorous background checks for gun owners than it does a solution to supposed voter fraud.
“Democrats have long lauded background checks on gun purchases as simple, accurate and in complete harmony with the Second Amendment right to own guns,” reads one slide of Lott’s presentation.
Lott goes on to point out that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has said that background checks for gun owners “make our communities and neighborhoods safer without in any way abridging rights or threatening a legitimate part of the American heritage.”
He concludes that if the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, “doesn’t interfere ‘in any way’ with people’s constitutional right to self-defense, doesn’t it follow that it would work for the right to vote?”
Erika Wilson, a law professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an expert in civil rights cases, said the proposal seems like a “political scheme more than any real possibility.”
“It seems like it’s a half-baked political gotcha to the liberals who seem to favor these kind of background checks for gun control,” Wilson said in an interview on Monday.
The nature of the policy, she pointed out, could also face legal challenges under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which “prohibits voting practices or procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color or membership in one of the language minority groups.”
Wilson said that because gun background checks look into criminal background and people of color are incarcerated at higher rates than whites, it could violate that provision of the VRA.
“Just because one has a criminal record, for example, shouldn’t automatically raise any conclusions about whether one would engage in voter fraud,” Wilson said, adding that almost every state allows convicted felons who have served their time the right to vote.
Some groups are boycotting the commission altogether, including the American Civil Liberties Union — which is suing the commission over a lack of transparency.
The ACLU said the commission is a “sham” that’s looking for any way to suppress votes.
“Donald Trump created this commission because he was humiliated about losing the 2016 popular vote. Then he tapped [panel vice chair] Kris Kobach, the king of voter suppression, to lead it,” Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said in a statement. “Our election process must be secure, fair and transparent, yet Trump and Kobach are using their sham commission to spread the lie of rampant fraud as a Trojan Horse for voter suppression. We won’t let them get away with it.”
A representative for Kobach did not respond to a request for comment.